Updated on 09/17/2011 10:51AM

Kafwain focuses, then flies

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Kafwain romps in the San Vicente, a performance jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert credit to a change from 'cheaters' to conventional blinkers.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Bob Baffert tweaked Kafwain's blinkers, and the view has never been better.

Far more focused than in previous starts, Kafwain easily disposed of four rivals in Saturday's $150,000 at Santa Anita, winning by 4 1/2 lengths to add further depth to Baffert's Kentucky Derby arsenal.

Kafwain, last after a quarter-mile, moved four paths wide on the turn to swoop past the leaders, then drew clear under a confident ride by Victor Espinoza. Sum Trick, an invader from Sunland Park, finished second after participating in a torrid pace duel.

Southern Image, a dazzling maiden winner here on opening day Dec. 26, was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third, six lengths clear of Runnin' on Nitro. Mr. Technique, the longest shot in the field, was last.

On a warm, dry day, Kafwain completed seven furlongs on the fast main track in a swift 1:21.12. The win was his fourth in nine lifetime starts, but marked the first time he had won by more than 1 1/4 lengths.

Both Baffert and Espinoza credited Kafwain's improved performance to both maturity and an alteration in his blinkers. Kafwain had worn blinkers in his previous eight starts, but the plastic cup on those blinkers was slight; they are known as "cheaters." For the San Vicente, Kafwain wore a more conventional blinker, one that restricts his vision more than the cheaters.

"The way he ran today, he was more focused," said Espinoza, who teamed with Baffert to win last year's Kentucky Derby with War Emblem. Like War Emblem, Kafwain is owned by the late Prince Ahmed bin Salman's The Thoroughbred Corporation.

"Every time he ran before, he would wait for the others," Espinoza added. "Not today. I hope that continues."

Kafwain, sent off at 4-5, returned $3.60. The big, powerful 3-year-old son of Cherokee Run won the Norfolk Stakes at this track last fall during the Oak Tree meeting, and also won Del Mar's Best Pal Stakes last summer. He finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to stablemate Vindication, and crossed the wire second, before being disqualified to fourth, in the Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 21. The San Vicente marked his first start of the year.

Baffert has three prominent Kentucky Derby prospects in Vindication, Kafwain, and Santa Catalina Stakes winner Domestic Dispute. He also has a rapidly improving contender in Apalachian Thunder.

Baffert said Kafwain would make two more starts prior to the Kentucky Derby.

"Usually you have to nudge him to get him going, but today he did it on his own," Baffert said. "That was very encouraging. I think he's matured a lot."